Italy to declare drought state of emergency as regions restrict water use

With the Italian government set to declare a state of emergency in up to five regions amid the worst drought in 70 years, many areas are imposing their own varying restrictions in the meantime.

Italy to declare drought state of emergency as regions restrict water use
A man waters plants using a bottle of mineral water in Baveno, northwest of Milan, after water usage was limited in the area on June 17th, 2022. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

The government is expected to announce a state of emergency following requests from the northern regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, junior health minister Andrea Costa said on Tuesday.

“The conditions necessary to declare a state of emergency have been met,” Costa told SkyTG24.

“We have to support the agriculture sector, which is not just about what it produces, it is also vital for our country due to the way it maintains the land”.

A drought alert has spread from the Po valley, where waters are three quarters down amid the worst drought in 70 years, to central rivers like the Arno, the Aniene and the Tiber, which have half the water they normally do at this time of the year, officials said last week.

Drought in Italy: What water use restrictions are in place and where?

The drought is putting over 30 percent of national agricultural production and half of livestock farming in the Po valley at risk, said Italian agricultural association Coldiretti on Thursday.

A view shows the dessicated bed of the river Po in Boretto, northeast of Parma, on June 15, 2022.

The dessicated bed of the river Po in Boretto, northeast of Parma, on June 15th, 2022. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP.

The declaration of a state of emergency would give hard-hit areas the green light to impose water usage restrictions, and to claim funding from the national government to compensate businesses for financial losses due to the drought.

READ ALSO: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

But while regional authorities wait for an announcement from the government, many have started imposing their own localised limits on water usage.

The government of Lazio, the region around Rome, said on Monday it was independently declaring a “state of calamity”.

Water rationing has begun in several comuni (municipalities) around Lake Bracciano, while Rome’s city water board has begun to lower the pressure in the pipes in order to reduce the water supply without having to suspend it.

Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna are each evaluating region-wide water rationing measures including, for example, bans on filling swimming pools.

Limits are meanwhile being brought in at local level in individual municipalities within these regions.

Local authorities including in Baveno, northwest of Milan, have cut the water supply to fountains. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Utilitalia, a federation of water companies, last week asked mayors in 100 towns in Piedmont and 25 in Lombardy to suspend nighttime drinking water supplies to replenish reservoir levels.

Some towns in the Po valley area are having to have water brought in by trucks.

Many of these areas have now been without any rain at all for more than 110 days, according to the Po River observatory.

Arid conditions are only expected to worsen in the coming days, with Italy currently in the grip of an intense heatwave bringing temperatures across northern regions into the mid-high 30s.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Will summer 2022 be Italy’s hottest ever?

As the country prepares for yet another heatwave, we look into whether summer 2022 might go down as the hottest summer in Italian history.

Will summer 2022 be Italy's hottest ever?

August is here and, alas, the heat is back on. 

After enduring months of exceptionally hot weather, Italy’s residents are bracing for yet another heatwave as meteorologists say temperatures this month might be 10 degrees higher than seasonal averages.

READ ALSO: Heatwave: What temperatures can we expect in Italy in August?

At this point many might be wondering whether the summer we’re living through (or surviving, you decide) might be one of, if not the hottest in Italian history. 

The short answer is: it might be but it’s far too soon to tell since, from a meteorological standpoint, summers consist of June, July and August and the latter month has only just started. 

But we can already start drawing a comparison between the current summer and the hottest summer in Italian history, the sweltering estate 2003.

For those who might not have been around then, summer 2003 brought four months of far-above-average temperatures without so much as a let-up to ‘break’ the heat. As a result, summer 2003 literally smashed each and every one of the previous records and earned the title of hottest Italian summer ever.

Tourists cooling off in Rome, Italy

Italy’s mean temperature in August is expected to sway between 2 and 3°C above season average. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

So far summer 2022 appears on track to give its infamous 2003 counterpart a run for its money.

Granted, in June 2022, the national mean temperature was 2.88​​°C above average, whereas the same value was 3.44°C above average in June 2003. 

But, while the country’s mean temperature was 1.59°C above average in July 2003, July 2022 registered an impressive +2.26°C in the same category.

So, all in all, it seems like the contest is bound to go right down to the wire, with temperatures in August set to determine whether summer 2022 will eventually be crowned as the hottest summer ever. 

Michele Brunetti, Chief Researcher at the Italian Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC), tells The Local: “August 2003 registered a significant anomaly – the national mean temperature was 2.71°C above average. We’ll have to wait and see whether this month’s temperatures will exceed those recorded in August.

“It would surely be quite extraordinary [if they did].”

Difficult as it may be, forecasts project that the country’s mean temperature will sway between 2 and 3°C above average in the coming weeks, so there might be just enough margin for summer 2022 to become the hottest ever (not that we hope it does, obviously).

The dried-up banks of the Po river in Italy

Thus far, 2022 has been the driest year in Italian history. Above are the dried-up banks of Italy’s longest river, the Po. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Meanwhile, 2022 may also be able to break another undesirable record and go down in history as the driest year ever – or, at least, since 1800, when records started.

READ ALSO: Italy’s Po Valley rations water amid worst drought in 70 years

So far this year, up until the end of July, rainfall across the country has been below average by as much as 46 percent (-52 percent in the north and -42 percent in the centre and south), making the first seven months of 2022 the driest in Italian history.

The amount of rainfall in the coming months will determine whether 2022 as a whole will beat out the current record holder, 2017 – something Brunetti says is likely to happen.

It would be no surprise given that the country is currently experiencing its worst drought in 70 years.